Sloclap's Absolver is an interesting combination of gameplay styles, one not often seen in RPGs. It mixes the exploration and camaraderie and customization of classic role-playing games with the competitive martial arts intensity of a full-fledged fighting game. It's hard to say whether it's an RPG with fighting elements or vice versa, but after teaming up with one of the developers for a gameplay demo, then soundly schooling him three-nil in a toe-to-toe fighting challenge, I get the feeling its true appeal will lie first and foremost in its fighting mechanics, with the world exploration relegated to second place.
That being said, the fighting game mechanics are actually pretty formidable. Creating a character gives players a choice between three initial fighting styles, each with its own focus: parry, absorb, or avoid. Then there are four stances to switch between, which influence which way your body is balanced, and each stance's combos can be fully customized and set up ahead of time. Combos are created out of regular and heavy attacks, with dodging and guarding also possible. So right out of the gate, there are an overwhelming amount of customization options available to players.
It doesn't end there though. Regardless of which style you chose as your primary technique at the beginning, the other styles can still be learned during the game and freely switched out. Then there are special abilities, feints, and perfect attacks that speed up the combo with well-timed button presses. All of this, however, pales in comparison to the surprise in store for me when my demo partner from Sloclap decided to take me into a special 1v1 arena so we could fight to the end, best of three: We switched from our previous martial arts styles to Drunken Fist style, and yes, it looks exactly like Jackie Chan's movements from the famous martial arts movie Drunken Master.
I haven't even gotten into weapons yet, which accounts for two additional styles that can be played on their own or interwoven into unarmed combos at will. There truly are a lot of options to explore, and combat is as much fun when directed against NPC opponents or against another human player. Absolver supports three-player drop-in/drop-out online multiplayer matches, sending you up to two partners in crime to play with. Or, for that matter, against, since friendly fire is possible, and you can easily decide to turn on one another.
For those that prefer to cooperate and explore some of the game's RPG elements, like enabling cooperation mode in which all partners share loot and XP equally, then exploring any of the game's roughly dozen areas. Kicking and chopping our way through some canyons, my partner pointed out to me some temple ruins in the distance, and an impossibly tall tower in the opposite direction, and indicated that these are just some of the dungeon-like areas that must be visited.
If deeply nuanced hand-to-hand combat experiences are what you're looking for, you'll only have to wait a few more months. Absolver is releasing on PC and PS4 on August 29, 2017, with an Xbox One version to come at a later date.